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Wavescape - Surfing in South Africa

Sun, 9 July 2017

The WSL Commissioner's office has awarded Michael February a wildcard for the Corona Open J-Bay after his 3rd place in the Ballito Pro behind winner Jordy Smith, writes Spike.

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RARIFIED REALM: MFeb is tantalisingly close to the premier Tour next year. Photo WSL / Cestari

An amazing run of domestic results, including 3rd place in the first prime Qualifying Series 10,000-pointer yesterday, helped the WSL to the decision despite February losing to World #3 Smith in an all-South African semifinal.

It was sad to see them paired in the same knockout heat, and some might have hoped for Smith to look kindly on his young compatriot. However, that's not the way of professional sport. Athletes have responsibilities to their sponsor and themselves, of course.

So the two studiously ignored each other in the paddle hunt for scorable waves. In the end, Smith prevailed. However, it was a win-win. A South African made the final, and won the event, a confidence booster heading to J-Bay, which starts Wednesday. February secured his best result ever, a 3rd in a QS10,000 event that propelled him to 4th in the QS rankings, and an exciting chance to challenge for a top 10 spot by the end of the year - that means qualification for the CT next year.

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WIN WIN: Jordy gets a win going to JBay. Mikey is going too. Photo WSL / Cestari

As Smith commented: “Secretly I was a little bummed for Mikey February. I would have liked to be in the finals with him but that’s just the way our sport goes. I just wish him all the best, I really hope he brings it and joins me on the tour next year. He’s got the ability and the confidence to go all the way.”

While a result in the Corona Open J-Bay won't bolster February's actual rankings on the QS, it provides another incredible opportunity to hone his heat tactics and further boost his confidence surfing against the likes of Mick Fanning and other veterans of the CT - all of which stands him in good stead to hit the ground running next year.

"It boosts my confidence so much making Semis in a 10,000 and I'm looking forward to keeping the positive vibes going, taking everything I learned from this event and just keep it going," said February. "It gets pretty busy now, it's the US Open and after that the European leg so that's my focus now, and then Hawaii. I had some nice words from Jordy after that heat, which was really cool from someone I look up to, it gives you that extra push."

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AIR TIME: Jordy pulled off some pretty impressive aerials enroute to the win. Photo WSL / Cestari

Earlier, it was white-knuckle time at Willard Beach when February had to surf in the quarter-finals against top-ranked QS leader Jesse Mendes from Brazil in fluky early morning conditions at Willard Beach. February was 21st coming into the event, and a win against Mendes would blast him 16 spots into the rarified realm of the top five, with a berth next year on the CT a real possibility. And that was just if he made the semis.

As history will have it, he made the semis but went no further, but the result helped make the WSL decide on a subsequent wildcard berth. And of course that proves that it's not just us who believe he possesses the full repertoire of skill, talent and tactical nous required for success on the CT.

A packed beach of partisan spectators - no Brazilian storm on the beach this time - saw Smith take down Brazilian Willian Cardoso to add a second title at Ballito after his win in 2010.

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NUMERO UNO: Jesse Mendes cemented his QS ranking despite a loss to MFeb. Photo WSL / Cestari

The big South African overcame a stomach bug that could have derailed his charge mid-week to reach the final of the first WSL QS10,000 of the year. “I had a bit of a slow start, but I ended up sticking that first air and from there I was actually enjoying my surf out there and just taking my time as the waves came through,” said Smith. “Eventually I got that one wave with a nice section and got one of the biggest ramps all week and just went for it and I landed it."

The whopping winner bonus of 10,000 points saw Smith straight into 5th on the QS rankings before heading to for J-Bay for the Corona event, #6 of 11 on the CT, which starts on Wednesday.

Full results, video footage, photos and news from the Ballito Pro pres. bented Billabong can be found at www.worldsurfleague.com and on the WSL App.

1 - Jordy Smith (ZAF) 18.06
2 - Willian Cardoso (BRA) 15.37

SSF 1: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 16.10 def. Michael February (ZAF) 13.10
SF 2: Willian Cardoso (BRA) 14.00 def. Mikey Wright (AUS) 10.84

QF 1: Michael February (ZAF) 15.33 def. Jesse Mendes (BRA) 12.43
QF 2: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 14.50 def. Miguel Pupo (BRA) 14.20
QF 3: Mikey Wright (AUS) 14.66 def. Wade Carmichael (AUS) 6.70
QF 4: Willian Cardoso (BRA) 15.83 def. Vasco Ribeiro (PRT) 12.77

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